Globelet’s mission from five years ago remains unchanged: To rid the world of disposable cups and drink bottles. But the ambitions of founder, Ryan Everton, span beyond being just that ‘cup company’ that supplies festivals with reusables: he wants to create a system in New Zealand cities that will change the way consumers consume; a revolution of sorts.
Or perhaps not really a revolution, as it’s been done before, Everton says. Take the milk bottle’s story.
“The older generations used to put the milk bottle outside the door and it got picked up and refilled, whereas our generation buy it from supermarkets, use it once and throw it away,” he says.
“We’re joining those two products together and doing the middle ground. I’m trying to reinvent the milk bottle.”
The initial vision
Everton originally designed Globelet’s reusable, recyclable polypropylene plastic cup in 2012 with festivals in mind.
His focus was to do away with “single-use waste” of cups used at festivals, where an event that uses 100 barrels of beer can end up using 12,000 disposable cups.
Since then, Everton says the company has about a million cups they reuse and rewash every year.
Some couldn’t see the point in Globelet’s mission at first, but they soon warmed to the idea – particularly with the company’s ability to brand and personalise the cups to get across a message.
“I’m good friends with Hamish that owns Rhythm and Vines [the Gisborne-based new years music festival] and as he was saying the other day, it’s kind of a no brainer. What’s the point in buying 50,000 single use cups from China, using them once and throwing them away when you can have your brand on a reusable product?”
Globelet has serviced over 300 festivals in New Zealand and Australia. At a festival like Splore, normally organisers buy 50,000 compostable cups that are only used once. This has been replaced with 15,000 Globelet cups which will be washed two to three times at the event.
It recently rolled out disposable water bottles to Splore and Womad festivals held in New Zealand this year as well. Patrons are sold a reusable water bottle that they can refill at 15 different supplied stations.
Everton says it was huge success at Womad, with 15,000 people refilled the bottles 40,000 times.
Expanding the vision
While it began with cups, Globelet is now in the business of reusable water bottles.
Linda Jenkinson, a New Zealander who was the first woman to list a company on the Nasdaq and was twice named San Francisco's most influential woman, joined Globelet’s team last year.
She says she came on board because she feels it’s a company that can make a real difference in moving people away from the disposable world.
“I think what’s changed is Globelet started up as a cup company, and now we’re a reuse system company,” Jenkinson says.
“What we realised is it’s great to get people at a festival environment to reduce their waste, but if you fundamentally want to get waste out of a festival environment, you’ve got to analyse what other companies are doing in this space.
“At a festival, there’s plastic water bottles, plastic plates, knives and forks – with cups, we’re really only impacting one part of what this looks like and we need to think more broadly.”
Single-use free cities
But this kind of thinking goes beyond festivals – Everton is keen to crown somewhere in New Zealand the first ever ‘Globelet city’, where people can freely refill cups or bottles in-store or at petrol stations, eliminating the need to buy one-use items.
Dispensing machines would allow consumers to refill their drink or return the bottle and get a little money back, then it could be washed and sold to the next person or recycled into a new bottle.
But it’s a challenging process – Globelet has to get various stakeholders on board, including event spaces, contained public spaces and retail stores.
“The vendors are the hardest to convert because they perceive it as more work – they’re used to selling things and not having to take something back. We’re looking to come up with loyalty schemes that can mitigate those challenges,” Everton says.
Jenkinson and Everton point to San Francisco, which banned the sales of plastic water bottles, and France, which is aiming to have no plastic water bottles sold in its country by 2025, as inspiration.
“Right now, it’s trying to find which cities and which people want to be the ones to lead the charge to go disposable free and single use free,” Everton says.
“Any city that we’ve talked to has been interested. We’re in the process to getting our infrastructure in place,” Jenkinson adds.
And with protests happening around the country objecting to New Zealand selling its water to overseas companies for a small fee, the thinking behind Globelet is very topical.
Everton says this was what originally sparked the idea.
"I always had a vision for disposable water starting out. Why were we bottling it and shipping it offshore? Why not own the water, produce it and create plastic around the water? That was my original sort of vision and I saw cups as an easy avenue to it."
It sounds a lot like disruption of the water bottle industry, but when that’s mentioned, Everton is coy.
“We don’t want to be too noisy about that, we’re trying to be under the radar - but that’s our goal.”
Defining what’s most environmentally friendly
While many tout the benefits of using biodegradable or compostable cups, Everton is adamant it’s not the best for the environment.
“We’re being marketed a story that compostable is better, even though it’s single use and out of Taiwan. It’s still linear versus circular in terms of design,” he said.
"We see it as a fraud and wrong it’s being marketed like that. It’s produced in China, goes back to China to be disposed of. We’re built around the circular economy – we produce it, use it, wash it, reuse it and resell it.
"In the compostable world, they're still effectively doing single use, whereas we’re taking a piece of plastic and using it 1000 times. We also own all stages of the market and control where that cup goes to.”
That all plays into the big, hairy audacious goal of Globelet: to become one of the biggest plastic companies in term of reuse in all the major cities of New Zealand.
The country isn't performing as well as it should in its environmental aims, he says.
“We want to help New Zealand put a flag up in this as opposed to lagging behind.”